Residents honour veterans in fitting Christmas tribute

Tom Sasvari

The Recorder

GORDON—A new and very fitting Christmas tradition has been started by a group of people to honour veterans each year at the Gordon Township cemetery.

The group of six people laid Christmas wreaths at the headstones of all veterans at the cemetery, a ceremony based on a similar event that is carried out each year, just prior to Christmas, in the United States at the Arlington Veterans cemetery in Arlington, Texas.

“This is all about the overwhelming support that was provided by people who made donations, helped out in making the wreaths or donated materials for the wreaths,” stated Sylvia Kemp on December 23, a day before the wreaths were unveiled. “I had been reading about the annual Christmas wreath project they have for veterans in Arlington Cemetery every year and I thought this was a wonderful idea and I decided I was going to do the same in memory of my father.”

Ms. Kemp mentioned this to a few local residents and from there, “a group of us sat down and put together 80 Christmas wreaths to be put at each of the veterans headstones in the Gordon cemetery,” said Ms. Kemp. “Many people helped out, for instance people like Barb Culgin, who made bows for all the wreaths.”

“It is just a great way to recognize our veterans for all their sacrifices and everything they did for us, and certainly displays the spirit of Christmas, which we can celebrate because of their (veterans) efforts,” said Ms. Kemp.

Ms. Kemp had originally got the idea for this project from the Wreaths Across America (WAA) ceremony. On Saturday, December 10, Wreaths Across America organized the placement of nearly 90,000 holiday wreaths on the headstones of the US fallen military at Arlington National Cemetery. This effort coincided with 740 additional wreath-laying ceremonies coordinated by WAA at locations across the US, including 25 overseas.

The wreaths journey to Arlington has become a tradition over the past two decades, allowing locals along the more than 700 mile route to share in the emotional and educational experience as the WAA convoy of long-haul tractor-trailers, buses, police and motorcycles passed through their hometowns.

Karen Worcester, executive director of WAA, said in a press release, “the passion and emotion of those that came out today (December 10 in Arlington) helped renew our commitment to soon ensure every veteran at rest at Arlington is recognized with a holiday wreath. This is a goal that we will continue to strive for until it becomes a reality.”

Wreaths Across America is a non-profit organized founded to continue and expand the annual wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery begun by Maine businessman, Morrill Worcester in 1992.

“We are hoping our event will become an annual project,” said Ms. Kemp, who praised the many people who helped out. “Everyone seemed to be embraced by the Christmas spirit and in honouring our veterans,” continued Ms. Kemp. She explained, “we made the wreaths and attached a red bow to each. Then we took them out to the Gordon cemetery on Christmas Eve and laid a wreath at each veteran’s marker and lit a candle for each. The wind was a bit hard on them but many burnt for some time.”

“Next year we will try to have LED candles burning bright,” wrote Ms. Kemp in an email. “Wouldn’t it be nice to see Christmas wreaths at each veterans stone at all the Island cemeteries next year? The season is one of hoping for peace on earth and good will toward all. These soldiers did everything they could to give us that peace in Canada and especially in our little corner of the world, Manitoulin Island.”